An amazing cup of coffee is much closer to achieving than the Internet Coffee Snobs (ICS) will make you think (particularly, if you take their ranting too seriously).
The ICS will want you to make coffee the center of your life.
For the rest of us that just want great coffee without having to feel like you’re in a cult or spend LOTS (time / $$$) because you don’t care too much about the micro-nuances of coffee, but just want a damn good cup.
Then you’ve come to the right place.
If you’ve already got a solid coffee machine (or other brewing device) and great beans then the missing piece for most is a good coffee grinder (this article will help you find the best manual coffee grinder).
Don’t get confused by all the ICS BS all over the internet about the extra equipment you need to purchase to make a great cup of coffee, since most of it is just noise. After you invest past a point the benefits most mortals will enjoy don’t improve proportionally to the additional time and financial investment.
Of course you can eventually upgrade later to a better machine and grinder, but this article will help you take your coffee to new heights that will likely satisfy most.
The best option from a bang-for-the-buck and quality perspective for those wanting to make about 1-4 cups of coffee at a time are manual coffee grinder (aka hand crank coffee grinders).
Yep, you’ll be grinding it by hand, but with a machine that is using mechanical leverage so it’s not that hard, and building up those muscles and spending an extra few minutes making coffee that’s in the top 3% will be worth it.
[Author’s note: I’m kind of making that “top 3%” statistic up, but it’s pretty damn close to the reality of it, so please forgive me or stop reading now if you’re too picky because I’m not willing to spend 20 minutes researching that statistic to get it 10% closer to a more accurate guess of someone from the ICS].
Coffee is all about the basics, most of the fluff beyond beans, non-crap machine and a legit grinder are for those with extremely refined palates (which gets you in the vicinity of being part of the ICS). And we want to turn it back a notch and bring coffee back to the point that the other 98% of the world (that aren’t coffee snobs) will get some big benefits from and enjoy a noticeable improvement from their current “just okay” coffee.
Burr vs Blade Grinder
A big part of getting coffee right is grind consistency.
Blade type grinders might be an improvement for some because they are stepping up from old coffee that’s been ground months ago and none of the yummy oils from the beans remain, but it’s still too far away from where I want to take you with your enjoyment of coffee (without becoming a coffee snob and making your life about how much better your coffee is than everyone else’s and all that other noise).
Consistently ground coffee beans leads to consistent taste because you’re not getting too much out of the some of the coffee grounds (over-extraction) or too little (under-extraction) from some of the other grounds.
Inconsistent ground size = Inconsistent coffee taste
With a blade grinder, the type that just has a big blade spinning and chopping the beans up you get big and small chunks/grounds so it’s hard to get your coffee right because the grounds are a bunch of different sizes so you’re basically getting a cocktail of over and under extracted coffee, which might occasionally taste okay and other times gross.
Just imagine a ninja chopping up beans with a samurai sword, you’ll have some really big pieces and other super-small pieces when our ninja is done.
A burr coffee grinder is more precise, sort of like if you ever opened up an old hand-crank pencil sharpener from elementary school and saw those rotating pieces of metal, that’s similar to a burr grinder, and just like the pencil sharpener the burr grinder is extremely precise and delivers very consistent coffee grounds (or back to the pencil sharpener idea, you get a consistently sharp pencil tip and if you look at the pencil shavings they’re the same thickness, that’s kind of what we’re going for, but we don’t want to drink pencil shavings. If someone else feels like an experiment I would love to hear about it in the comments. Reminds me of when some countries couldn’t get coffee beans they brewed burnt bread as a substitute, sounds gross, but might taste similar if you’re used to crap coffee).
Now we have consistency. We’re like 80% there!
Best Budget Burr Coffee Grinder = Conical Burr Grinder
To keep it real short, there are two types of burr grinders, conical and flat. From a non-ICS point of view go with conical because of cost, reliability, maintenance/cleaning and minimal real-world benefits worthy of the additional hassle. If you really want to dissect the issue this dude gets into it like an ICS-boss.
If you want to spend $200+ and spend more time cleaning your grinder a flat burr grinder might be for you, BUT if you want a cheap grinder (under $100, some are WAY under that) that’s amazing and will last for years a manual burr grinder is probably what you’re looking for.
This takes us to the…
Manual (Conical) Burr Grinders
We’ll be covering manual conical burr grinders for the rest of the article, so if I say “manual grinder” from here on that’s what we’re talking about.
The beauty of most manual grinders is that they give you the most grind-size settings so you if you’re looking to find:
- The best coffee grinder for french press
- The ideal coffee grinder for pour over
- … espresso
- … Aeropress
- … Cold brew
- and some even do Turkish coffee (but most don’t since it’s the finest grind and would be difficult and time-consuming)
So with this one little seemingly magical device you’ll be able to make tons of different types of coffee since most of them can do a wide variety of grind sizes.
Here are our favorite hand coffee grinders (starting with the best to save time and not be a coffee-tease)…
1) Handground Precision Coffee Grinder – Our TOP PICK (**NUMERO UNO… CHAMP**)
The Handground folks got it right with the Precision grinder.
The balance of quality, price, ergonomics (nice handle that’s easy to turn!) and most importantly grind CONSISTENCY make this the all-around winner.
Being able to clearly see your grind setting on the grind adjuster is awesome because you can easily remember (or write down) the setting you want for whatever you’re happening to brew and turn it to the number, pop in some beans (also awesome since you have easy-to-read ~10 gram measurement markers on the side of the hopper so you know how much beans to add).
Grind settings: 15 grind settings (from espresso [fine] to cold brew [extra-coarse], the markers show 8, but there’s a half-setting in-between each number)
Bean capacity: 100 grams (BIG)
Price: $$$ (Check Pricing)
Size: 5.8″ x 3.1″ x 8.7″ (also on the bigger side compared to the others, can still use for travel, but if space is a big priority one of the smaller grinders below might be a better option)
2) Porlex JP-30 Stainless Steel Hand Crank Coffee Grinder
If you’re a minimalist or like/need to conserve space, but still want a great cup then the Porlex just might be for you.
Because of its shape it can be tucked away or because of it’s beautiful (yet durable) stainless steel exterior you can have it on display all while it being not much bigger than a salt/pepper grinder.
The size and shape also make it great for traveling while having the same coffee experience as being home (not saying you are that person, or that i’m that person, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of, especially since we’re creatures of habit).
It’s well built and delivers consistent grinds from espresso to french press (not meant for cold brew). It’s 12 grind settings will satisfy most coffee brew needs (just count the clicks on the burr wheel).
Overall it’s a great grinder, best suited for those looking for something solid, that feels good in your hand, needing up to 3 cups of coffee per grind, with travel or small size being a big priority.
Grind settings: ~12 grind settings (from espresso [fine] to french press [coarse], based on burr wheel click #)
Bean capacity: 30 grams (Small, best for up to 3 cups of coffee per grind)
Price: $$$ (Check Pricing)
Size: 1.9″ x 7.6″ x 1.9″ (Small-Medium, good for travel or small counter/storage space) **Or if you’re looking for an even smaller version for travel, small spaces or just need 1-2 cups of coffee at a time check out the Porlex Mini Grinder
[Note: There are a bunch of similar looking copycat grinders, but this is the original and most of the copycats have not met (or surpassed) the quality of the Porlex, there’s one notable exception and we have the JavaPresse]
3) Zassenhaus Brasilia Manual Coffee Mill Grinder
Zassenhaus is made for those that want a grinder that will last decades (it has a 25 year guarantee on the grinding mechanism), provides an extremely consistent grind (thanks in part to the strong steel conical burr grinder) and looks classically beautiful because of it’s beautiful wood construction.
They’re known for they’re expert Czech and German craftsmanship that makes for one of the most outstanding hand grinders there are, producing some amazing (and consistent) grinds.
Less of a modern look, and more on the craftsman side of style, but you’ll know if it’s for you by looking at it and being pulled towards quality and longevity.
The downside is it’s bigger and heavier (steel tends to do that) than most other hand grinders, so not as portable, and also on the pricier side.
But if you’re the type of person that doesn’t mind spending a little more now to save later and you want to buy one grinder that with last a very long time the Zassenhaus Brasilia is worth a serious look. It’s also for those that appreciate the fine craftsmanship.
There are different styles and woods for Zass grinders, here’s another favorite, the Zassenhaus Santiago grinder in black beech wood (it’s a little pricier that the Brasilia).
Grind settings: Tons of grind size settings (from Turkish coffee [super fine] to French press [coarse]), one of the few grinders that does super fine and able to because of the the near-infinite grind settings on the grind size adjustment wheel. One downside with the Zass is that the adjustment wheel isn’t labeled so you’ll have to do what I’ve seen others do and mark the grind setting(s) you want with a marker or a sticker for consistency or go by feel and make minor adjustments.
Bean capacity: 50 grams (Medium)
Price: $$$$ (Check Pricing)
Size: 4.7″ x 4.9″ x 7.8″ (on the larger side compared to the other hand grinders and meant for home use, but still much smaller than most electric grinders. If traveling by car you could still bring this grinder along, but not recommended if you’ll be flying and carrying it for long periods of time)
4) Hario Skerton Pro Coffee Mill Grinder
The Hario Skerton is one of those iconic grinders that have been around for a while and since they’re made by a Japanese company they’re constantly making improvements.
At Hario they’ve been listening to customer feedback since with the Skerton “Pro” they redesigned the ceramic burr design, improving grinds and giving it a more solid and positive feel when you’re turning the handle (which has also been redesigned and feels stronger and more natural when grasping).
Combine the above improvements with a better way to more more precisely control your grind size via rethinking the grind adjustment and you have a winning combination. Now it’s way easier to adjust with a different type of grind adjustment nut that you can go by listening for “clicks” instead of eyeballing and making your own marks to get the size of grinds you need.
Easy adjustment is a definite plus from my perspective.
They kept the beautiful look the older Skerton’s have with the new Pro version, so it looks similar, it’s just had some much-appreciated improvements in the areas that were lacking.
You also have to keep in mind that the bottom portion that collects the grinds is made out of glass (Hario’s a glass company and they’ve been around since 1921), it’s got a rubber cover around the bottom so it won’t slip and gives some protection, but because of that it’s not the best for traveling when considering the size AND glass being used.
Tip: For the easiest grinding without any hand strain it’s best to have beans in the hopper to grind 1 to 2 cups of coffee at a time, since if you put more beans in at once it’s harder to turn. Simple solution if you need to grind for 4 cups is to put enough beans for 2 cups and when that’s done add more beans and do a second round of grinding, trust me, your hand will thank you.
Grind settings: Many grind settings (from espresso [fine] to French press [coarse]), it uses a much-improved adjustment nut, which is easier to grab and turn and now you can go by “clicks” to reproduce your grind size and be more consistent.
Bean capacity: 100 grams (BIG)
Price: $$ (Check Pricing)
Size: 6.6″ x 3.7″ x 7.7″ (on the Medium-Large size, best for home use. For traveling best to get something smaller like the Hario Mini-Slim Plus or another small hand grinder)
5) JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder
The JavaPresse is a solid little hand grinder that can take almost anything you can throw at/into it.
It’s perfect for those that want to get more into coffee and upping their game a bit, but are on a tight budget and/or travel lots and want to avoid getting questionable coffee while doing so.
It’s been labeled by some as a Porlex knock-off, but for the price and grind quality it’s a pretty solid little hand grinder (even though it’s not made in Japan like the Porlex) and it has it solidly has its place on this list. Not only that, it’s also been near the top of the Amazon bestseller list for many years (which is not an easy thing to do and speaks a lot of what this thing is capable of).
The JavaPresse gets the job done and is like that tough and hard-working neighbor (or friend) you have that is unassuming, not into anything flashy or trendy, but is solid and reliable.
It can brew just about anything from super fine Turkish to coarse French press very well with consistency non-ICS folks wouldn’t scoff about, leading to a tasty cup of espresso or a strong Aeropress brew.
It looks good with it’s shiny stainless steel body and feels nice in your hand too.
Like everything, it has some flaws if you look over the Amazon reviews, mainly due to folks having overly high expectations and not reading the manual on how to adjust for grind size, it uses the “click” system and takes a little getting used to and some experimentation to listen and count the “clicks” to get the grinds just how you like them.
Almost everyone I know that’s read the instructions and gives it a few tries gets it within a few cups.
Another major plus is how small it easy, making it easy to take with you while traveling or taking up very little counter or storage space if you don’t have lots of room.
Grind settings: ~18 grind settings (from Turkish coffee to espresso [super-fine to fine] and up to French press [coarse], it uses the “click” system and you turn and count the clicks you hear, since everyone’s a little different in what size grinds they need for how they’re brewing there’s some experimentation and trial and error involved to get it exactly how you like it)
Bean capacity: 40 grams (Small)
Price: $ (Check Pricing)
Size: 1.8″ x 7.5″ x 1.8″ (Small-Medium, good for travel or small counter/storage space)
Recap & Happy Coffee’ing
Each of these grinders will check most of the boxes and cover the basics, delivering a greatly improved coffee experience over pre-ground, single serve capsules or blade ground coffee.
In the end you should take your own needs/wants into consideration and get the grinder that makes the most sense for your situation, even though my top pick is the Handground Precision grinder, for others it might be too big or modern.
If you have any other these grinders (or ones not covered that you think should be included) feel free to comment below.
These are my opinions, based on my experience, so it’s not an exhaustive or definitive list, just one persons take on some good options for upping your coffee game without spending tons of money or becoming an ICS coffee snob.